Hello, it is I, your resident American correspondent, corresponding to you from America, on America’s second-greatest holiday: Thanksgiving, the day we stuff our faces with turkey so we don’t have to talk to each other. (The best holiday is July 4, because fireworks.) In honor of my homeland’s holiday tradition of making way too much food, here is a gossip story with way too many possibilities: Joss Whedon has left his HBO show, The Nevers. The news came yesterday, via CinemaBlend, where Whedon issued a statement that dropped on the afternoon before a major holiday, which is like a super-sized Friday gossip dump. Whedon’s statement reads in part:
“…while developing and producing The Nevers has been a joyful experience, I realize that the level of commitment required moving forward, combined with the physical challenges of making such a huge show during a global pandemic, is more than I can handle without the work beginning to suffer. I am genuinely exhausted, and am stepping back to martial my energy towards my own life, which is also at the brink of exciting change.”
Okay, SO, here are your options, a veritable BUFFET of gossip possibility. One, Whedon is genuinely burnt out and cannot continue with his current workload; two, Whedon has a major life change coming, such as a new baby or he’s just been left a mysterious hill-top mansion in a distant relative’s will and he can’t wait to see what’s inside; three, something went wrong with HBO, the network producing The Nevers, on the creative side; or four, this is in some way connected to Ray Fisher’s allegations of Whedon’s “completely unacceptable” behavior on the set of Justice League.
If you ask me, which no one TECHNICALLY did, I think option one is perfectly valid. Whedon has a history of burning out—we saw him burnt out during the press tour of Avengers: Age of Ultron, with behind-the-scenes rumors of burnout and exhaustion plaguing other Whedon productions—and ANYONE stepping away from a demanding, high-pressure job to manage their mental health is totally understandable. If this is the case, I hope things work out for him. BUT. HBO’s statement about Whedon’s exit is like the corporate-speak version of “new phone, who dis”: “We have parted ways with Joss Whedon. We remain excited about the future of The Nevers and look forward to its premiere in the summer of 2021.”
That is CHILLY! That is a frozen public relations ice cube! They have PARTED WAYS but do not wish him well! Or even wish him medium! They do not know this Joss Whedon bitch! They have moved on! What bad news is about to come out that HBO does not want to be seen supporting Joss Whedon at this time!? This is not the whole story!
Obviously, there is something else happening here. The Nevers is one of HBO’s bright new gems for 2021, a Victorian-set superhero show from the man who made superheroes the biggest pop culture currency of the 2010s. If Whedon’s exit was just about personal reasons, you think HBO’s parting statement would be a little kinder, a little more sympathetic. This statement reads like HBO covering their ass, like they don’t want to be seen to be TOO friendly with Whedon at this juncture. Which, naturally, calls to mind Ray Fisher’s allegations. To recap, after Fisher first alleged Whedon, along with some (now former) Warner Brothers and DC Films brass, behaved inappropriately during the making of Justice League, an internal investigation was ordered by WarnerMedia but Fisher was not happy with the investigation. Last month, in an interview with Forbes, Fisher elaborated, but his initial comments accusing Whedon of lightening an actor of color’s skin tone were removed from the interview. (Whedon’s lawyer rebutted Fisher’s comments). This is one of the longest-running gossip stories of 2020, and it is also one of the most contentious.
And maybe it’s about to get worse? To be fair, nothing about any of this connects Whedon’s exit from The Nevers to Ray Fisher’s allegations, but I HAVE A MEMORY, and it is MAKING LEAPS. Like, could it be a coincidence that a month after Fisher ups the ante in the ongoing conflict around Justice League, Joss Whedon leaves his high-profile HBO show, his much-touted return to TV? Yes! But also, this stinks to high heaven. It’s the timing—a month after Fisher made specific allegations against Whedon, even though they were retracted from publication, and then this exit statement dumped on a major holiday eve, which is ALWAYS suspect, and also that cold as ice HBO statement. No well wishes, no “hope he feels better”, no “we loved working with him”. They’re keeping The Nevers for 2021, but that statement reads like they could care less about losing Whedon, the creator of the damn show.
So, what do YOU think happened?